Intel says it's cracked end to end silicon photonics

Chip giant Intel said that it has made the first silicon based optical data connection with integrated lasers, allowing for data ransfer speeds of 50 billion bits a second. But Intel thinks it will be able to up those speeds in the future.

The implications of the announcement are that system designs for machines ranging from notebooks to supercomputers will be completely transformed, when the technology becomes affordable and pervasive.

Justin RattnerThe use of fibre and photonics means that data centres are also likely to be transformed in the future. Justin Rattner, chief technology officer (CTO) at Intel,  showed off the technology at a photonics conference in Monterey, California, today.

Justin Rattner said the silicon photonics link is scalable to 100Gbps, 400Gbps and more, and integrates its previous silicon photonic building blocks including light emitting lasers, and detectors.

“This will bring the benefits of silicon volume to photonics,” he said. It will be affordable and lead to new apps and architectures. Copper, he said, is reaching its physical limit and distance and a speed tradeoff shortens the length of connections. Fibre technology is thin and light, simplifying the tangles inside PCs or outside in data centres.

While traditional optonics is expensive, silicon photonics takes out a lot of the costs. To get lasers down to an economic cost point has been challenging, said Rattner. Silicon brings high volume and low cost. Intel claims its prototype runs without errors for many hours.

Intel said that the technology would be applicable to be available in very high volumes and at low cost. That will take two or three years to happen, Intel said. It will be available in machines by 2015, Rattner said.

Future generations of Intel’s Light Peak technology will benefit from the developments in silicon photonics, he added.

You can find Intel’s slides here. Then there’s this.